Bhambore, is the name of the city tinkles the renowned love tale of Sassi and Punnu. The passage of time has left the city in ruin but the everlasting love of Sassi and Punnu has recorded its name in all historical travel permit of the subcontinent.
Sindhi is the ruins of the ancient port city of Debal from the 7th century, located near modern Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, at the base of the Indus River. The ruins are located in the region of 60 km between Dhabeji and Gharo on the N-5 National Highway. Its population was mainly Hindu with a Buddhist minority. It is largely known for the ruins of a castle destroyed by Muhammad bin Qasim during the invasion of Sindh and—on a different note—the legendary love story of Sassi Punnu.
Bhambore signifies the trading links between Arab and South Asian nations of its times. The new city of Bhambore came into being because pirates had kidnapped a ship. A plea was filed with the Arab rulers in Baghdad (then a major economic and military power) to rescue the people from the kidnapped ship. When diplomacy failed to release those people, an expedition was sent to the area under the command of Muhammad bin Qasim . With better-quality military might and planning he was able to make an amphibious landing and establish his presence here. One of the reasons cited for the success of this trip is the sorrow of the Buddhist population; it is believed they may have helped the coming invaders.
Bhambore was later abandoned due to a change in the river's course. Substantiation of earthquakes and regional invaders is also cited as an explanation for the population's movement away from the area and the crumbling of the castle. The former river delta is now a creek.
The old name of Bhambore was Deibal. It is whispered to have been built by Alexander the Great in 325 BC. However, no bona fide record of the early history of Deibal is found anywhere. The only reliable sources of its history are the ruins of the city. Experts divide the history of Deibal into three periods i.e., the Scytho-Parithan Period (starting from the 1st century BC), the Hindu-Buddhist Period and the Muslim Era (ending in the 13th century AD).
The Scytho-Parithan Period coincides with the fall of Greeks and rise of Buddhism and Gandhara Civilization in ancient Taxila. The Scythians and Parthian were intruders from the west. They defeated the Greeks but could not retain their dominance for a long time. They captured Taxila and settled in many places like Bhambore. The antiquities, especially pottery, of this period show great influence of the Greek civilization. The Scytho-Parithan Period was followed by the Hindu-Buddhist Period. Bhambore became an important center of religious activities in this era. The remains of Shiva Temple suggest that Bhambore was once an important middle of Hindu civilization in Sindh. However, the city remained aloof from main political and enlightening stream until 712 A.D.
This was the time when India was indulged in gloom and unawareness. There existed political and social bedlam in the country. The mighty state of King Ashoka had broken into fragments. India was divided in small states of Kashmir, Kanuj, Asam, Nepal, Sindh, Bengal and Malwa in south, Chalukyas, Cholas and Pallavas in north and many ship states. Deibal was one of them. It was ruled by Raja Dahir.
Once it so happened that a band of sea pirates plundered a fleet of ships passing through the Indian Ocean. They captured many Muslim women as well. The ships were transport some Arab families from Ceylon to Iraq. The news reached Hajjaj bin Yousaf, the governor of Baghdad. He asked Raja Dahir to release the prisoners and castigate the pirates. Dahir showed ignorance of the incident and refused to take any action. In fact, he used to support the pirates and rebel tribes. They created disturbance in Muslim occupied areas of Makran and found refuge in Sindh. Raja even paid them for looting trade caravans and innocent citizens. Dahir's reply aroused the anger of Hajjaj. He sent Ubaidullah and then flower ail to get back the Muslim prisoners from Dahir but these expeditions failed when they had to face armed forces. Hajjaj now decided to launch a full fledge military expedition. He sent Muhammad bin Qasim along with 6000 cavalrymen, 6000 camel riders, 3000 camels loaded with baggage and five catapults.
Muhammad bin Qasim reached Makran in the spring of 712 A.D. Haroon, the governor of Makran provided him a badge of fresh soldiers. Some Jets and Meds also joined the army due to their discontentment with the Hindu rulers. Daibul was the target. The Muslim army dug trenches round the fort of Daibul and fixed their catapults. The siege continued for three days without any response from the Hindu army. A local man advised Muhammad din Qasim to pull down the red flag of the fort. Qasim used Al-Uroos, the best catapult of his armaments, to knock down the flag. The Hindus took it for a bad omen and immediately surrendered. Raja Dahir lost his life. His wife, Rani Bai, performed ritual suicide by throwing herself into fire. The Muslims passed victoriously through the city and captured the whole Sindh. Sindh became the gateway of Islam (Bab-e-Islam). Thus, Bhambore can exactly be called the birthplace of Islam in the sub-continent.
This was the beginning of the new period. The Muslims were admirable generals and rulers as well. They established a new society based on the principles of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. A large number of Hindus embraced Islam. The Arabs extended their rule over large parts of Sindh. Bhambore was given to local chiefs. However, the Muslim rule did not last long after the death of Muhammad bin Qasim. Somehow, the Muslim rule in Bhambore continued during the days of Umayyad and Abbasid line. The city disappeared in 13th century due to some indefinite reasons.
Bhambore remained unknown for a long time until General Cunningham excavated its remains for the first time in 1910s. Henry Cousins and then N. G. Majumdar from the Archaeological Survey of (British) India continued his work. However, they did not find it worthwhile to explore the site. After independence, Leslie Ad cock of the Pakistan Department of Archaeology worked for a succinct time on limited excavations. He too abandoned his work very soon. Consistent work started in 1958 for the next eight years. These excavations brought a wealth of knowledge abut the broke city.
The present site of the town consists of a bastion. It is 610 meters in length and 365 meters in breadth. Once, the town was classified within the boundaries of the citadel. However, the growth of population caused the town to expand north and eastwards outside the citadel. The deep trenches laid inside the citadel reveal three different periods of history i.e. the Scytho-Parithan, Hindu-Buddhist and the Muslim Period. The earliest period appears in the pieces of pottery recovered from the position. These pieces are exact imitation of Greek pottery. The second period is reflected in ruined temples. The most chief of them is Shiva Temple, which is made of mud-bricks. Traces of Muslim Period can be seen on stone sculptures, ceramic works, terra cotta specimens and inscriptions in proto-Nagri style.
Once, the town had a self-protective wall made of boulders and blocks of limestone. It was supported by circular bastions at regular intervals. There were many gateways in the wall as well. One of them opened at the waterside. Remains of an waterfront and broad steps point out the city being a port in past. Inside the citadel, there are remains of a mosque. This was, undoubtedly, the first mosque of the subcontinent. The features of the mosque resemble the Jamia' Mosque of Kufa built in 670 A.D.
Others antiquities improved from the site are shell and ivory objects, pendants in terra cotta and semi-precious stones, iron objects, pottery and Kufic inscription of the Muslim era. These matter clearly show that Bhambore was a modern city of its time. Human skeletons, rubble of buildings and layers of ashy charcoal and stones indicate some natural calamity or war that destroyed the city forever in the 13th century. Most in all probability, it was during the invasions of King Jalal Uddin Khawarizm Shah of Afghanistan that the city was demolished ceaselessly. Today, a little museum preserves coins, pottery and other objects recovered from the site.
Nothing can endure the way of time. The city has vanished but the never-ending lovers of Bhambore will always remind us of this land of love.
Legend of Sassi Punnu:
Sassi was the daughter of King Adam Khan of Bhambore. At her birth, the astrologers predicted that she was a curse for the noble family's prestige. The king ordered that the child be put in a wooden chest with a 'taweez' (amulet) tied on her neck and thrown into the river Chenab. The chest was seen buoyant by Atta, a poor washer man. The washer man believed that the child was a blessing from God and took her home and adopted her as his child. Many years passed by and the king did not have another child. He strong-willed to marry again. He had heard the tales of the beauty of Sassi so he summoned her to the palace.
Sassi was still exhausting the amulet, which the queen mother had put in the region of her neck. The king recognized his daughter immediately on seeing the amulet. The pent-up sufferings of the parents flowed into tears. They wanted their lost child to return to the palace and bring joy and brightness to their lives. However, Sassi refused and preferred to live in the house where she had grown up.
Sassi did not go to the fort but the king presented her with abundant gifts, lands and gardens where she could breed and blossom like a flower. As all the rare things of the world were within her reach, she wanted to acquire knowledge and sent for cultured teachers and scholars. She made sincere efforts to increase her knowledge. During this time, she heard about the trader from Gajni, who had a garden with a gravestone, the inner portion of which was enriched with exquisite paintings. When Sassi visited the place to offer her tributes and admire the rich art, she instantly fell in love with a painting, which was a masterpiece of heavenly creation. This was the portrait of Prince Punnu, the son of King Ali Hoot of Kech.